Create relationships not networks

The emergence of new online tools have led many professionals and businesses to use them without a clear goal behind and without having planned the way to achieve it. Today it seems that the most effective strategies to win/manage corporate reputation are those that involve the presence on social networks and online communities (and monitoring it).

But are they the most appropriate tools to address our stakeholders? As most of you already know, when we speak of reputation we refer to the internal and external perceptions of the stakeholders of an organization, as employees, suppliers, customers, investors and shareholders are. While social networks and online communities have allowed these previously isolated groups to interact, it is questionable whether these channels and media are always the most appropriate instruments to manage, as far as possible, the perceptions they have of the organization.

When building a favorable reputation we need, as in many other cases, to plan and integrate the necessary tools in a consistent way. And not necessarily all of these tools are related to marketing or communications. For example, as we have already seen in previous posts, the firm’s internal audience is key in building reputation. While the existence of appropriate communication channels is essential to identify their interests, needs and concerns, a closer interaction aimed at fostering their motivation, recognition, participation and reward it is also needed, and that depends more on managerial behavior that in the existing communication instruments. The same goes for other important stakeholders that are related to the organization such as suppliers, investors, etc.

The truth is that, ultimately, people like interacting with people and, preferably, in a direct way. I guess that with a good friend you prefer to have a coffee than to send him a e-mail (if you have enough time, of course). Thus, even if we use the potential that social networks and communities offer, we should always try to move that relationship outside the network: the relationship with those you we are interested in and that care about us will improve, as well as our reputation.

9 Responses to “Create relationships not networks”
  1. Joseph dice:

    I’m just realizing that web 2.0 is related to attitude changes more than technological changes. The main thing is participation, and we are creating, increasing collaborative options and making it stronger day by day.

    It’s true that the socialnetworks (blogs included) are a new way to the 2.0 companies in order to have a relationship (can we call it “new service”?) that includes the wish of hearing the users (as a part of the stakeholders). But, how to use it correctly?. It depends if they are creators, critics, collectors, joiners, conversationalists or even spectators.

    Good post!

    • José Bueno dice:

      Hi Joseph, from my point of view technology is only the platform to build this relationship with some of th companies stakeholders but I agree with Marta that if you don’t define the goals, the targets you want to reach and you design a plan to achieve them and that should integrate different marketing and non-marketing tools, there is no sense in being in social communities and networks. My opinion is that the major issue is not to do a lot of “noise” but to reach, interact and mould, as far as possible, the perceptions of your main targets. Don’t you think so?

      • Joseph dice:

        Hi Jose Bueno. Completely agree with both points of view (Marta and yours). I like your words talking about “interact and mould the perceptions of the main target”.

  2. Patty Hewes dice:

    I am totally agree with everything… but I need to think a little bit more about it…

  3. Nico Ondarra dice:

    There’s a point I don’t agree Marta. New generations, young people, teenagers, don’t always prefer interaction in a direct way. Internet and virtual relationships are their way to more effectively communicate. Firms must understand it and think how to adapt their strategy to built relationships and do business taking into account the employees of the future will not need to share “the same room” if that’s not virtual.

    Key point for me related to your article is about Organization. Hierarchical organizations are becoming flat due to social networks. Now is possible to contact to any person in professional social networks as Linkedin. Years ago it was necessary to build relationships in order to contact to important managers or figures. Now there are no barriers to do it so… are current organitzations models to die?

    • Hi Nico, of course social networks and online communities are useful tools to interact with stakeholders (specially customers or potential customers), but I uphold the idea of integrating them into a more comprehensive marketing strategy where instruments on and offline are mixed. It is true that young people have grown up in a technological environment and, therefore, the way how these relate to each other has changed. However, not all companies are aimed at young people. Thus, for other target audiences other channels are probably better. The same happens when it comes to interact with other stakeholders of the company. A couple of days ago I had the opportunity to talk with an e-reputation professional (for me e-reputation doesn’t exist, e-visibility would be a better word to describe it) and I could validate that although the networks obviously give visibility to companies, this visibility didn’t translate into higher sales, even if online promotions and other marketing actions were implemented .

      Regarding your second point, I think the hierarchy hasn’t changed within organizations because of the existence of social networks. There are organizations with a much more flatter structure than others, but from my point of view it depends more on the leadership style (flexibility, empowerment, teamwork, etc..) of the organization than in anything else. What is true is that networks enable different stakeholders to interact with each other among themselves or with other people with the good and bad consequences that it entails: the workers, for example, can act as ambassadors or prescribers of the company ahead of others or vice versa. What do you think about it?

      • Nico Ondarra dice:

        That’s an interesting point Marta. I will answer with another question: why workers cannot act a ambassadors or prescribers? In fact I think they should. Any member of an organization should, obviously trough different channels and dealing with with different issues than managers, but why not?

      • Dear Nico, as you suggest in your comment what would be desirable is that all employees were ambassadors or prescrpitors of the company to which they belong and would show their pride to work there in social networks since their viewpoints could give confidence to other stakeholders of the firm. In fact, there are companies that are boosting their employees’ participation in the network. What is the risk of promoting such activities? Well, as you already know, many employees don’t identify with their company and therefore, their comments can do more harm than good to the organization.

      • Nico Ondarra dice:

        Thanks for your answer, it makes sense. I’ve been reviewing comments about your article, I’m going to propose my team and students to note it in their agendas. Your blog is better than hours of boring classes! Many thanks, go ahead!!!


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